US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke in his big Jackson Hole speech today --
As you know, the downturn in the housing market, which began in the summer of 2005, has been sharp. Sales of new and existing homes have declined significantly from their mid-2005 peaks and have remained slow in recent months ... A substantial increase in lending to nonprime borrowers contributed to the bulge in residential investment in 2004 and 2005, and the tightening of credit conditions for these borrowers likely accounts for some of the continued softening in demand we have seen this year ... The problems have been most severe for subprime mortgages with adjustable rates: the proportion of those loans with serious delinquencies rose to about 13-1/2 percent in June, more than double the recent low seen in mid-2005.The adjustable-rate subprime mortgages originated in late 2005 and in 2006 have performed the worst, in part because of slippage in underwriting standards, reflected for example in high loan-to-value ratios and incomplete documentation.
His predecessor, Alan Greenspan, in 2004 --
American consumers might benefit if lenders provided greater mortgage product alternatives to the traditional fixed-rate mortgage. To the degree that households are driven by fears of payment shocks but are willing to manage their own interest rate risks, the traditional fixed-rate mortgage may be an expensive method of financing a home.
It's tough on the people who took their financial advice from Alan Greenspan (as did George Bush, in a different context). At least Greenspan's successor is, if opaquely, calling him out on it.